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An escort is the smallest type of warship in use by the various starfaring navies of the Milky Way galaxy's intelligent species.

While individually weak when compared to larger capital voidships, they can become quite potent in large numbers, and can use their sheer speed and manoeuvrability to harass the heavier capital ships while protecting their own ships of the line from enemy escorts attempting to do the same.

Imperial Escorts

The conduct of the Great Crusade required vessels by the thousands, vessels that could not only carry armies and bring apocalyptic destruction to bear, but that could also endure the perilous transit of Warpspace and endure the titanic forces and hardships of the Empyrean and the deep void both.

Military vessels were needed, not only to replace losses but to meet the ever expanding demands of the expeditionary fleets, the Imperial Army's Armada Imperialis and, on a lesser scale, the Rogue Traders and local system navies. To satisfy this constant need, a bewildering variety of classes of warship were developed to fulfil an equally bewildering variety of roles.

"Escort" is the catch-all designation for the smallest division of Warp-capable warships, seldom larger than 1 or 2 kilometres in length, and possessing only a fraction of the mass and raw power of a true capital ship. In a "clash of the line," the life expectancy of an escort is almost nil.

The most common escort class of the Great Crusade was the frigate, a multi-purpose armed vessel designed to largely balance firepower, defence and range. They were intended to be used both for independent operations of patrol and attack where a larger warship such as a cruiser was unwarranted, and in squadrons as outriders, guardians, piquet ships, and armed reconnaissance vessels.

Often overlooked as insignificant by technocratic senior officers of the Navis Imperialis obsessed with the raw firepower of true battleships or ships of the line, frigates offered so much more than pure scouting and escort vessels. These elegant and fast voidcraft travel further, explore more widely and routinely see more combat than the larger battlefleet vessels simply by virtue of the vast number of tasks they are capable of performing.

Other tactical roles falling into this class include destroyers; small escorts, relatively heavily armed warships for their size, but commensurately ill-defended and with poor independent range designed either to attack larger warships and void stations in waves or expend themselves sacrificially to protect more important vessels and convoys (destroyer duty was therefore largely regarded as a death sentence), and "Warp runners." This latter ship class was designed to incorporate only minimal crew, armament and life support, sacrificing their design almost entirely for speed and range of operation, being employed principally as spy vessels, blockade runners, couriers and explorers.

Imperial Navy

  • Havoc-class Frigate
  • Thunderbolt-class Heavy Frigate

Space Marines

  • Kill Ship

Siege Frigates

  • Vigil-class Siege Frigate (Great Crusade era)


  • Baron-class Minekeeper (Great Crusade era)
  • Harpy-class Minekeeper (Great Crusade era)
  • Havoc-class Minekeeper (Great Crusade era)
  • Sceptre-class Minekeeper (Great Crusade era)
  • Stalwart-class Minekeeper (Great Crusade era)

Warp Runners

  • Spectre-class Frigate (Great Crusade era)


  • Thor-class Frigate (Great Crusade era)


  • Castellan-class Shield Ship

Merchant Fleet

  • Cetaceus-class Freighter
  • Orion-class Fast Clipper

Chaos Escorts

Drukhari Escorts

  • Talon Cyriix-class Frigate
  • Venom Blade-class Frigate
  • Immortality Denied-class Destroyer
  • Sigil-class Destroyer

Asuryani Escorts

  • Aconite-class Frigate
  • Hellebore-class Frigate
  • Nightshade-class Destroyer
  • Shadowhunter-class Escort

Necron Escorts

Ork Escorts

  • Grunt Assault Ship

T'au Empire Escorts


T'au Allies

Tyranid Escorts

Frigate-size Bio-Ships

Destroyer-size Bio-Ships


These are escort starship types that are used by many different starfaring races in one form or another:

  • Q-Ship

See Also


  • Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook
  • Battlefleet Gothic Armada
  • Battlefleet Gothic Compendium 2010, pp. 43-44
  • Battlefleet Gothic Magazine #2, pg. 40
  • Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 309-310
  • Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign
  • Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 194-195
  • Rogue Trader: Battlefleet Koronus (RPG), pp. 26, 104
  • Rogue Trader: Into the Storm (RPG), pg. 151
  • The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination "Warships of the Great Crusade," by Alan Bligh, pp. 15, 62
  • White Dwarf 139 (UK), "Spacefleet," by Jervis Johnson & Andy Jones, pp. 17-18